SAN ANTONIO -- Manu Ginobili scored 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs won their 19th in a row to tie the NBA record for longest winning streak kept alive in the playoffs, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 101-98, to open the Western Conference Finals at AT&T Center.
Obeying orders snarled by coach Gregg Popovich in a fourth-quarter timeout to play "nasty," the Spurs erased a nine-point deficit that stunned the Thunder, who had looked on their way to finally kicking the perception that they're the underdog.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 27 points. Russell Westbrook had 17.
The 2001 Lakers are the only other team to carry a winning streak this long in the playoffs -- and they did so on their way to a championship.
Game 2 is Tuesday night.
The Spurs matched the fourth-longest streak in NBA history, and with one more will be just the fourth team to surpass 20.
Tim Duncan had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Tony Parker shook off a dismal start to finish with 18 points. But it was Ginobili who steered the Spurs to strike first in a highly anticipated matchup of the West's top two teams for practically the entire regular season.
"They got us on our heels. We were not aggressive," Ginobili said. "And in the second half, we did have it."
On the other end, Oklahoma City's own Big Three struggled to find its shot early before awakening in the second half.
Yet Westbrook still finished just 6 of 15 and took a nasty, face-first spill late in the fourth. Westbrook appeared to favor his left leg when he got up, but he never left the game.
It was a tantalizingly close near-upset for the young Thunder, who were ousted in the Western Conference Finals a year ago.nba